Hebraism And Hellenism Essay Contest

                   Assignment Topic:

           Hebraism and Hellenism in

                 Culture and Anarchy

Name: Jinal B. Parmar

M.A.  Semester: 2

Roll no.: 13

Paper no.: 6 The Victorian Literature

Subject:  Essay of Matthew Arnold on Culture and Anarchy

Year: 2013 – 2014

Submitted to: Department of English

Maharaja Krishna kumarsinhji Bhavnagar University

Introduction: Matthew Arnold

             Matthew Arnold was one of the great critic of Victorian age. He was a British Poet and Cultural Critic who worked as an inspector of schools. Arnold has been characterized as a Saga writer, a type of a writer who chastises and instructs the reader on contemporary social issues.  Arnold is a one the literary figure of Victorian age, and He comes next to Browning and Tennyson. He has the experience of twenty – four years as the inspector of schools and so it provided him so much time to meet the different classes and society and he examine their behaviors and their habits. His comparative experiences at the home and abroad yielded such essays as, The Popular Education of France, with Notices of That of Holland and Switzerland, A French Eton, or Middle-Class Education and the State, and Schools and Universities on the Continent, all of which influenced the ideas which found expression in Culture and Anarchy.

           Matthew Arnold has wrote one essay on culture and social issues titled “Culture and Anarchy”. This essay considered as his one of the masterpiece of social criticism. Arnold mostly known for his this essay in which he has criticizes the culture and society and gave clear vision of Victorian issues of his time.

Culture and Anarchy:

            Culture and Anarchy is the major work of criticism. According to Arnold culture is “the study of perfection”. Culture and Anarchy is a long essay on social issues and culture. Much more than a mere treatise on the state of education in England, Culture and Anarchy is, in the words of J. Dover Wilson, “ at once a masterpiece of vivacious prose, a great poet’s great defence of poetry, a profoundly religious book, and the finest apology for education in the English Language.” Culture and Anarchy is a series of periodical essay, first published in Cornhill Magazine 1867 – 68 and collected as a book in 1869.  This essay contains six chapters and these chapters gave us view of Arnold about Political and Social issues.

          The first chapter of the work was originally entitled: “Culture and its Enemies”The essay spurred a number of responses, and soon, Arnold's attempts to respond to these responses grew into a sequence of essays in Cornhill published between January to August 1868. These essays would later form the collection, Culture and Anarchy.

           This essay written in six parts here the summarizes of Arnold’s aspects of culture that will bring human society to greater perfection and the aspects of modern life that bring human society towards anarchy:



Ø  -Sweetness and Light (Beauty and Intelligence)

Ø  -Hellenising: a more holistic, internal, intellectual transformation to see things “as they truly are”

Ø  -Idea of eternal process, progress, vital movement of thought

Ø  -Making reason and will of God prevail

Ø  -“best self” (collectively, everyone will agree over values if everyone is cultivating their best selves)

Ø  -need for ideas before action

Ø  -“right reason”

Ø  -ensuring “light” is not actually darkness

Ø  -allowing “consciousness to play freely and simply” to cultivate disinterested views of things and to avoid blind orthodoxies

Ø  -Critique as actionable and pragmatic

Ø  -State authority needed to reign in anarchy; should not be afraid of State as long as it expresses collective “best self”

Ø  -Fire and Strength

Ø  -Philistinism

Ø  -Hebraising: tendency towards action, fire, strict adherence to rules

Ø  -“Machinery”

Ø  -Newspaper orthodoxies

Ø  -Middle class liberalism

Ø  -cultivating natural taste for “bathos”

Ø  -“Ordinary self”

Ø  -Random action, or fixed rules for action without ideas behind them

Ø  -“Doing as one likes” as the middle class, liberal doctrine

Ø  -“One thing needful”

Ø  -Fetishizing the production of wealth and manufactures

Ø  -Mindless partisanship – rule bound “liberals” and “conservatives”

Ø  -Fanaticism: nonconformists are perhaps as rule-bound and counter to individual thought as the Established Church

Ø  -“Clap-trap”

The names of these six chapters of the essay:

1.    Chapter – 1 “Sweetness and Light”

2.    Chapter – 2 “Doing as One Likes”

3.    Chapter – 3 “Barbarians, Philistines, and Populace”

4.    Chapter – 4 “Hebraism and Hellenism”

5.    Chapter – 5 “Porro Unum est Necessarium”

6.    Chapter – 6 “Our Liberal Practitioners”

Hebraism and Hellenism:


          “Hebraism is the identification of a usage, trait, or characteristic of the Hebrew language. By successive extension it is often applied to the Jewish people, their faith, national ideology, or culture.”

           The word “Hebraism” describes a quality, character, nature or method of thought, or system of religion attributed to the Hebrew people. It is in this sense that Matthew Arnold contrasts Hebraism with Hellenism.


          “The word “Hellenism” derived from the Greek word “Ellinismos”. In Greek, Ellinismos has been used to describe the people of Greek lineage and also to describe a set of values for living that were invented by the ancient Greeks.”

           Hellenism, generally used by historians to refer to the period from the death of Alexander the Great to the death of Cleopatra and the incorporation of Egypt in the Roman Empire in 30 B.C.E. Egypt was the last important survivor of the political system which had developed as a consequence both of the victories of Alexander and of his premature death. The word Hellenism is also used to indicate more generically the cultural tradition of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire between Augustus and Justinian and/or the influence of Greek civilization on Rome, Carthage, India, and other regions which were never part of the empire of Alexander.

            In this essay he has discussed Hebraism and Hellenism. Arnold defines this chapter and presents his ideas about Hebraism and Hellenism. He has quoted from Bishop Wilson, “First, never go against the best light you have; secondly, take care that your light be not darkness. "These two forces we may regard as in some sense rivals,--rivals not by the necessity of their own nature,   but as exhibited in man and his history,--and rivals dividing the empire of the world between them.  And to give these forces names from the two races of men who have supplied the most signal and splendid manifestations of them,  we may call them respectively the forces of Hebraism and Hellenism.

           Hebraism and Hellenism are religious disciplines that incorporate similar language in their teaching. Arnold argues that these are the two prime driving forces in the world with each interacting strongly with the others. Some time they both are in harmony, at that time one may have a stronger effect than the opposing force. Hellenism is a Greek teaching and focuses on seeing the world and reality as it really is and spontaneity. As we seen above Hebraism is obviously Hebrew, and put stress upon have personal obedience and strictness of the conscience. While there are many differences in both of these teachings, they each emphasize the fact that desire is a very human characteristic as well as the need for the love of God.

            In the beginning of this topic, Arnold discusses about doing and thinking. His general view about human being is that they prefer to act rather than think. He rejects it because mankind is to error and he cannot always think right, but it comes seldom in the process of reasoning and meditation, or he is not rightly guided by the light of true reason. The nation which follows the voice of its conscience and its best light, but it is not the light of true reason except darkness. Arnold gave his opinion that, the nation is energy or the capacity of doing but it is not intelligence or capacity of thinking rightly. Such energy that has the sense of obligation and duty must be related to the best light.

            Arnold said that Hellenism and Hebraism they should be in harmony by the light of reason, and talks about the great idea to know and the great energy to act. He considered both these forces very powerful and insists on the balance of the both thought and action. The final aim of these Hellenism and Hebraism is the same as man’s salvation and perfection.  Even when their language indicates by variation, — sometimes a broad variation, often a but slight and subtle variation, — the different courses of thought which are uppermost in each discipline, even then the unity of the final end and aim is still apparent. To employ the actual words of that discipline with which we ourselves are all of us most familiar, and the words of which, therefore, come most home to us, that final end and aim is "that we might be partakers of the divine nature"

           Arnold also discusses further thing that the supreme idea with Hellenism or the Greek Spirit is to see things as they really are, and the supreme idea of Hebraism or the spirit of Bible is conduct and obedience. If Hebraism means only the knowledge of the Bible and the word of God, then Arnold has come to the defence of culture and says: “No man, who knows nothing else, knows even his Bible”!  Essential to Hellenism, on the other hand, is the impulse to the development of the whole man.

           Arnold points out that the Greek philosophy considered that the body and its desires are an obstacle to right action. The root idea of the both is the desire for reason and the will of God, and the desire of love of God. Hebraism studies the universal order and observes the magnificence of God apparent in the order, whereas Hellenism follows with flexible activity. Thus, Hellenism acquires spontaneity of consciousness with a clearness of mind, and Hebraism achieves a strictness of conscience with its clarity of thought. Hellenism has more earnestness of free play of the intellect or a Plato says, “for ever through all the universe tends towards that which is lovely”.  In brief, Hebraism shows stress on doing rather than knowing, and follows the will of God. Its primary idea is absolute obedience to the will of God.  

            Both these Hebraism and Hellenism are directly connected to the life of human beings. Hebraism fastens its faith in doing, where as Hellenism put stress on knowing or knowledge. The final aim of both is the partaking of divine life with knowledge and action. Arnold describes that the Bible reveals the truth which awards the peace of God and liberty. The easy and simple idea of Hellenism is to get rid of ignorance, to see things as they are, and to search beauty from them. Socrates, as Hellenic, states that the best man is he who tries to make himself perfect, and the happiest man is he who feels that he is perfecting himself.

          In this treatise, Arnold says that there is enough of Hellenism in the English nation, and Arnold emphasizes on Hebraism, because it is based on conduct and self – control and admit that the age is incapable of governing itself in the pursuit of perfection, and the bright promise of Greek ideal is faded. The Obedience  or submission must be to the rules of conduct as expressed by the Holy Scripture. Hellenism lays its main stress on clear intelligence. Whereas Hebraism keeps main stress on firm obedience, moral power and character. Arnold explain and turns to Sin that spoils the efforts to achieve Hellenism. He gave his opinion that sin is an obstacle to perfection because it brings hurdles in knowing ourselves, it prevent man’s passage to perfection. He calls it is a mysterious power that is hostile to man. The discipline of the Holy Scripture teaches that how to avoid and stop the sin.  Hebraism speaks of becoming conscious of the sin and keeping away from it, Whereas Hellenism speaks of thinking clearly and seeing the things in their essence and beauty.

          In this chapter Arnold also talked about Christianity and also talked about the idea of immorality as illustrated by the St. Paul, the Christian saint and Plato the Greek Philosopher and Thinker, but both have left something unexplained. So, its create a problem the problem of human spirit is still unsolved in both Hebraism and Hellenism. In all this writer finds triumph of the great movement of Christianity on the man’s moral impulses. Arnold Accepts that Renaissance re established Hellenism and man’s intellectual impulses in Europe and Puritanism embraced the blessing of both Hellenism and Hebraism. In time of Reformation, there was the more influence of Hebraism than the Hellenism, there was a grave return to the Bible and to doing the will of God from the heart.

          There was superiority of Puritanism over Catholicism and it was moral, it has the result of its greater sincerity and greater earnestness. Arnold then says that the attitude of mind of Puritanism towards the Bible differs from the attitude of mind of Catholism toward the church.In the sixteenth century, therefore, Hellenism re-entered the world, and again stood in presence of Hebraism, — a Hebraism renewed and purged, but Hellenism of Renaissance lost its moral character. Arnold viewed on thing most that, Hellenism is of Indo-European growth, Hebraism is of Semitic growth; and we English, a nation of Indo- European stock, seem to belong naturally to the movement of Hellenism.

The greatness of the difference is well measured by the difference in force, beauty, significance and usefulness, between primitive Christianity and Protestantism. Eighteen hundred years ago it was altogether the hour of Hebraism; primitive Christianity was legitimately and truly the ascendant force in the world at that time, and the way of mankind's progress lay through its full development. In 16th century there was a reaction of Hebraism against Hellenism. If Hellenism was defeated by Hebraism, it shows that Hellenism was imperfect.

            There was the defeat of Hellenism by early Christianity and the defeat of Hellenism by Puritanism was the result of Renaissance stress on the progress of humanism and science. And incline that the man to knowing himself and the world to seeing the thing as the spontaneity of consciousness.  

            Arnold defines how Hebraism and Hellenism have the same ends - so that "we may be partakers in divine nature" and thus they should be balanced in our society. Hebraism's close relationship with sin tends to make it too much about conduct and obedience, and not enough about seeing this as they really are. In history, there have been waves of Hebraism and Hellenism (Renaissance - Hellenistic; Reformation - Hubristic). Arnold values the "tenacity" of Hebraism but suggests that Hellenism is needed to make sure the "light" which this tenacity follows is not "darkness."

            At the end we can say that Arnold’s argument is about the idea of Hebraism versus Hellenism. Hebraism represents the actions of people who are either ignorant or resistant to the idea of culture. Hebraists subscribe to a strict, narrow-minded method of moral conduct and self control which does not allow them to visualize a utopian future of belonging to an enlightened community. Hellenism signifies the open-minded, spontaneous exploration of classical ideas and their application to contemporary society.

          At the end of this part of this essay “Hebraism and Hellenism”  we can say that it must be added that the rule of life should be based on these theory of Hebraism and Hellenism because both has final aim that is man’s perfection or salvation. As in this part Arnold has defined very well concept about Hebraism and Hellenism on the other side he has also defined the things which are related to the politics, society, culture and other thing also comes in other chapters of the essay. This essay “Culture and Anarchy” ended with then Arnold idea and his thought that he how he gave different view about culture.

"What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" This famous cry of the early Christian Tertullian was answered in the nineteenth century with a resounding response of "Everything!". One of the most urgent cultural questions of the age was how the glories of the classical world could be reconciled with the Bible. Classics dominated the education system, above all in Germany, where the celebrated tyranny of Greece over the German imagination exerted itself in the arts, in politics and in philosophy. Christianity, nevertheless, dominated spiritual life even as it was the source of the most difficult conflicts of the period. Debates flourished between Christians and Christians, between Christians and Jews, and between the religious and the secular. If Christianity had emerged in the classical world and in self-conscious and violent opposition to it, how could the Bible and the Classics be equally privileged without giving rise to deep tensions? It is this anxiety at the heart of Christian Europe that explains why Judaism was to play a fundamental role in defining the contours of modern philhellenism. The arguments took many forms: perhaps most famously, Matthew Arnold put the opposition between "Hebrew and Hellene" at the centre of his analysis of modernity. Meanwhile the scholarly and philological categorisation of Indo-European and Semitic languages provided a framework for wider debates about aesthetics, political structures and religious history.

The publication of Winckelmann's Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Masterpieces in Painting and Sculpture in 1755 inaugurated the period of 'modern' Hellenism and set the scene for a Grecophilia that would hold the German intelligentsia in its grip for well over a century. This literary-aesthetic yearning for Greece and the development of a rigorous philological method took place against the background of violent changes in the political landscape of Europe. The French Revolution and the Enlightenment philosophies which had inspired it gave rise to a new sense of what it was to be a subject and a citizen in history. This new modernity defined itself in dialogue with antiquity. From Hegel to Marx, it was against the citizens of the past that the progress of the modern subject was constantly measured. The classical cultures of Greece and Rome were not, however, the only historical societies which offered themselves up for comparison. The ancient world, so central to the Enlightenment, in fact, bifurcated into two competing traditions: Athens and Jerusalem came to represent two alternative narratives of European identity. This opposition between Greeks and Jews increasingly structured the reception of the classical world in the long nineteenth century as the Jew came to represent the limits of Enlightenment thought and its idealisation of classical Greece.

Scholars have noted the striking prominence of discussions of Judaism in Enlightenment and Idealist philosophy. From Mendelssohn and Kant to Fichte and Hegel, the figure of the 'Jew' is often articulated as a problem for the universalist precepts of philosophy. However, the discussion of Judaism should be brought into relation with the role of Hellenism in the Enlightenment. The German-Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn provides a fascinating example. Known to his contemporaries as the 'German Socrates', Mendelssohn was not only a major figure in the fight for Jewish emancipation, but also an important philosophical interlocutor of Kant. Mendelssohn's assimilation to the figure of Socrates is both a symptom of the growing "Hellenisation" of Judaism at this time and part of a much broader Enlightenment debate about the rationality of religion where Athens and Jerusalem provide competing models of reason and ethical community.

If the figure of Mendelssohn threatens to confound the binary of Greeks and Jews, Hegel's narrative of world-historical progress explicitly sets the 'Hebraic' and 'Hellenic' worlds in opposition. So Hegel summarises the role of Judaism in his Philosophy of History: "On the whole Jewish history exhibits grand features of character; but it is disfigured by an exclusive bearing (sanctioned in its religion), toward the genius of other nations ...by want of culture generally, and by the superstition arising from the idea of the high value of their peculiar nationality" (Hegel 1991, 197). Moreover, for Hegel, the 'Hebraic' and 'Hellenic' are understood precisely against the background of a plurality of global traditions. The Hebraic tradition is for Hegel steeped in an Oriental spirit which must be overcome. As Suzanne Marchand and Anthony Grafton point out: "Hegel, it should be remembered, in creating a dialectics of world history, gave Greece and the Orient not just different but antithetical "spirits" evident in every aspect of cultural development, from the arts to religion, politics, and social organization" (Marchand/Grafton 1997, 14). Hegel's contrast between the aesthetic, political and ethical predispositions of the Greek and Hebraic spirit is summed up in his early writings on Christianity: "The tragedy of the Jewish people is no Greek tragedy". The influence of Hegel's philosophy on historical thinking throughout the nineteenth century was profound. Both Hegel's dialectical method and his pronouncements on the "spirit" of the Orient found their way into a very wide range of different discourses. Hegel's work, then, provided the philosophical framework for the historical study of competing cultures.

During the course of the nineteenth century, Hegel's antithesis paradoxically develops along two diametrically opposed lines. On the one hand, the Greek/Jew distinction was concretised in scholarly traditions which in, the wake of the writings of Ernest Renan, saw the opposition between Indo-European and Semitic cultures as a key to understanding the historical organisation of mankind. On the other hand, there is a move towards abstraction and metaphorisation. Matthew Arnold's essay on 'Hellenism and Hebraism' in Culture and Anarchy is the classic example of this tendency. Arnold turned Greeks and Jews into sound-bites of contemporary cultural criticism completely removed from their historical referents. He saw his project as an extension of Heinrich Heine's psychological character types of Hebrew and Hellene - a categorisation which was so far removed from ethnic corollaries that Heine could identify Hellenic and Hebraic tendencies in the same person regardless of his geographical or historical location. And yet, others have seen in Arnold's racialisation of the terms of cultural criticism a worrying development. Despite Arnold's desire to obfuscate the historical situation of the Jews of his time, the urgencies of the 'Jewish question' remain an uncanny presence in discussions of Hellenism and Hebraism. From Marx to Freud, the aspirations of the modern subject inevitably become enmeshed in the question of anti-Semitism.

From the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century the Greek/Jew opposition became a key to understanding debates about reason, Enlightenment and competing notions of ethical and political subjectivity. Conceptualisations of Hellenism in this period were also deeply implicated in discussions about secularism. For Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche an appeal to the classical world formed an integral part of their critique of the Protestant state. While both figures have been instrumental in moving away from the Christian worldview, they share a much contested and ambivalent role in the development of modern anti-Semitism. As the examples of Marx and Nietzsche show, the antithesis between Greeks and Jews during the long nineteenth century played a crucial role in the shift from Christian anti-Judaism to secular anti-Semitism. Where the Enlightenment conflict between Athens and Jerusalem, like its predecessor in antiquity, was more concerned with reconciling philosophy and Christianity, in the age of the radical critique of religion it came to provide a script for secular modernity.

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